Cito Beltran: The experimental cook
KITCHEN SPY - KITCHEN SPY By Heidi Ng () - July 28, 2005 - 12:00am
Straight Talk is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month. The talk show’s success is due largely to its witty host, Cito Beltran. When he pitched to ABS CBN News Channel executives the idea of doing a Larry King-type of show, he was told it wouldn’t work and that it would be tantamount to suicide. I guess he proved them wrong.

Now in its fourth year, the show boasts remarkable guests, from presidents and politicians to foreign artists and esteemed professionals. His favorite guests include Coring Ramos of National Book Store, Sycip, Gorres and Velayo founder Washington SyCip, comedian Elizabeth Ramsey, and singer Stephen Bishop.

The show won the 2003 Catholic Mass Media award for best talk show. However, awards are not something Cito spends time thinking about. He believes the show helped people with their careers, and that gives meaning to what they do.

Cito is not afraid to ask questions or tackle sensitive matters. However, he does so with such finesse that his guests do answer, and he gets interesting and sometimes controversial answers. For someone who never wanted to be in media, he has reached a status some could only dream of.

Maybe, his success is due to his gung-ho attitude and his ability to do things differently. "We don’t box ourselves. We had guests from the business sector to young people," he shares. This thinking crosses over to his daily life and to his cooking as well.

He calls himself an experimental cook. "When I lived in the States, I could not afford to take women out on dates, so I would cook for them. I have what I call the Connecticut fried rice where I just get cooked rice and fry it in sesame oil with peas, carrots, corn and sausages," he shares.

"Today, I will show you how I wooed my Italian, Norwegian, and Dutch girlfriends with my cooking skills," he laughs.

He got the wares in his fantastic kitchen cooked for a good price because it is made up mostly of second-hand stuff from a restaurant that closed. His breakfast table was from his dad, the late Louie Beltran.

He cooked everything from scratch as his cell group members from Victory Church awaited the feast Cito was cooking for the group that night. I discover his cooking quirks: He does not wash the vegetables because he presumes they have been washed before they are sold in supermarkets. He thinks white onions are for fashion only, and uses mighty red onions to flavor his dishes. He does not measure what he puts in his dishes, but tastes it instead to see if it is good enough. He uses chili generously.

He cooks the hardest dishes first, and always cooks the vegetables last, so that the vegetables will stay crunchy. He thinks the problem with most Filipinos is that they tend to overcook veggies. When Cito cooks, he makes sure that there is a balance of meat and vegetable dishes.

After coming back from the States, his cooking skills were further honed when he built a back-to-basics resort in Palawan. He had to cook for the guests since he could not afford to get a cook then.

One day, he got a radio message that a group of Italians was coming to the resort, so he asked his wife to get pasta, meat, and fruits from the nearest town. Later, his staff called to say there was a problem. The group of Italians was really a group of vegetarian Indians. He had to give away the meat and exchange them for vegetables. He was honest with the group from Asian Development Bank and admitted to them his faux pas. To his surprise, the group kindly accepted his confession and proceeded to teach him how to experiment with cooking, whipping up curries with no gas but only with wooden fire. Until now, he does not know exactly how he survived.

Another time, he went to Calauit with a bunch of guests, from German tourists to high-ranking ADB officials. When they reached the island, they discovered that the banca boy forgot to put in the condiments and meat, so they only had chicken. He sent off his assistant with P1,000 to get anything they could get from the sari-sari store. When the assistant came back, all he could get from the sari-sari store was a clove of garlic, cooking oil and Royal Tru-Orange. So, he made chicken l’orange, as he calls it, by boiling the chicken with the soda, then frying it in a sauce of vegetables. His guests remarked that it was such a fantastic chicken dish and that he had to give them the recipe, but to this day he would not share it.

That night, his church group was in for a surprise. They had never tasted Cito’s cooking and were remarkably impressed. I was, too. Too bad, he still would not share his recipe for chicken l’orange.
Pata Tim
1 pork leg
1-1/2 cups soy sauce
2 whole garlic cloves
50 gms. bay (laurel) leaves
2 cups brown sugar

Boil the pork leg in a deep pan. Be sure to keep the meat at least an inch below the water. Midway through the boiling, add the laurel, garlic, and pepper. Boil for over an hour. When the pork has softened and the water level has reached an inch below the meat, put the sugar, and soy sauce. Keep on turning the pata tim to cook it properly. Do not leave it alone. Boil until the pork becomes very tender.
Curry Chicken
6 pcs. chicken
3 minced siling labuyo
2 red onions
100 gms. raisins
4 cloves garlic
50 gms. curry powder
1 red bell pepper
200 gms. coconut powder (mixed in water)

Sauté the chicken in garlic and onions. When chicken is cooked, add the coconut powder (already diluted in water) and the curry powder. Add the raisins, bell pepper, and siling labuyo when the curry sauce begins to boil. Pepper to taste.
Connecticut Fried Rice
>3 cups rice
500 gms. green peas and carrots mix
sesame oil
200 gms. bacon

Fry the sausage, bacon, and onion in sesame oil. Throw in the rice. Mix together and put the veggies last. Salt and pepper to taste.
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